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“Because things don’t always work out like the storybook.” Raihanna Estrada’s “Cinderella”

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Raihanna Estrada is an indie country artist-songwriter from California who now calls Nashville home. She grew up in a motorhome on a Ranch in Lake Berryessa in Napa County and fell in love with country music. She started songwriting at age 13 creating stories and melodies. And started performing whenever she could at Karaoke. In high school she moved back to Fremont, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area and continued by singing the National Anthem at rallies, sports games and performing at talent shows.

The singer-songwriter was adopted at six months old by her maternal Grandparents who she called Mom and Dad. They raised her to love everyone, help when you can, to work hard and to be creative. They were a different generation and that gave her a love of things of the past. Their suburban home had many treasures. They were everything to her. In 2005 and 2006 her world was turned upside down. Her Dad passed away abruptly from a heart aneurism and her Mom followed a year later passing away from Cancer. It broke her heart but instead of letting it ruin her she took that and channeled it into chasing her dreams of pursing a music career and living her life exactly how she wanted to. Thinking outside the box of the norm and living it to the fullest.

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Fondest music memories growing up in Lake Berryessa in Napa County?

Growing up at the Ranch was the best childhood. I grew up in a motorhome there with my Mom. It was a small space to live in but that’s why I have such big dreams. We had a big playground to roam around with hiking, trail rides on our favorite horses, catching tadpoles in the creek, spending every summer at the pool only taking a break to go get an ice cream at the snack bar and singing at Karaoke in the Lodge on the weekends which I always looked forward to. The memories there are endless. The kids that I grew up with there became my brothers and sisters. We all still keep in touch now. And even though we don’t see each other all the time there is a special bond from spending all those years together. Not everyone knows you from childhood, to teenage to adult years. It’s special and I’m really thankful to have grown up there.

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You met your husband Eric Bickerstaffe when you moved to attend Musicians Institute in Hollywood in 2009. Favorite song you’ve written together to date?

Yes we did. Can’t believe it’s been that many years already! He had moved down to LA from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He was doing the guitar program and I was in the Vocal Program there. We started going on coffee dates to study for our Music Business class that we had together and going for hikes at Runyon Canyon in Hollywood. We bonded over our love of music. We are opposites in someways but one thing that we both recognized in each other early on is that we would be each others biggest supporter, challenger and best friend. And that’s important to have not only in a personal relationship but in the music industry as well. We fell in love in LA. It will always be a special place for both of us in our story. My favorite song we have written together is called “Habit”. It’s about that thing you turn to when life feels like a mess. For us, that’s bottles of red wine. Especially Cabernets. People love that one when we play it out at shows.

Favorite fairytales growing up?

I’ve always loved fairy tales and movies about other lands and far off new worlds. My favorite Disney movie is Aladdin. But I watched Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid a lot, too. I loved the songs. But I also grew up on musicals like Annie, Oliver my all time favorite movie as a kid Labyrinth. If it had weird creatures or had great songs I loved it. A lot of those early films introduced me to singing.

You wrote about pitching “Cinderella” as a demo and the response one man gave you. Great staying true to yourself and your vision. What inspired the song write shortly after moving to Nashville?

Yes, I feel it’s very important to stay true to who you are and what you see. Because what you see is a vision of something that maybe someone else can’t see and that should be brought to life in your way. That’s creativity. “Cinderella” was inspired a lot by my own story at different stages. Growing up in the motorhome, falling in and out with different guys, wishing for a place to call home like the one I had with my parents. But also the idea of those same fairytales I grew up on. It always works out for the Princess in the very end of the film. And I got to thinking, well that isn’t always true in life. I wanted to paint the mess of a Princess that I see. Because I can relate to her pain and her hopeful heart. I figured somebody out there might relate to the story.

Favorite Nashville venue?

I love playing at The Listening Room Cafe! It’s such a great venue for songwriters to be able to actually tell the stories of their songs and the audience really wants to be there for it. I’ve always had a great experience there.

How would you compare the California songwriter community to the ones in Nashville?

I loved my time living in Los Angeles and met wonderful songwriters and talented musicians there. I met all of my immediate friend and music circle from going to Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles. Musicians and artists from all over the world that I still keep in touch with and work with when I can. That community to me was tight knit, supportive and we were all living and dreaming together in a crazy place like Hollywood. There is definitely a California Country scene in Los Angeles and the outskirts and up in Northern California as well. People love country music there. I’d say the biggest difference for me is that Los Angeles is such a big city and it has a lot of moving parts and things going on that aren’t only music focused. In Nashville, it’s a lot smaller and more of a manageable city to live in for day to day things than LA. You end up seeing a lot of the same people at venues and out and about around town, too. In Nashville you get a sense that you can really make things happen here, but of course it takes time just like anywhere else in the music industry. There are a lot of music venues and opportunities for all styles of music. It’s more of a community vibe here and people are very friendly. Which I really love because I’ve always been that way on my music journey. We’re all in it together.

You love travelling. Which places top your travel bucket list?

I do! I’ve been to 19 countries and still have a lot on my list. I love traveling so much and have made that a huge priority in my life. My husband Eric and I love to see the world together. I want to Go Anywhere! Which is why I have a travel site called Go Anywhere Girl- (Facebook) or (Instagram) where I make vlogs, travel tips and share my love of traveling hoping that it inspires others to go do the same. The next place on my bucket list is: Thailand. I’ve never been to South East Asia and I’d love to see it and eat all the amazing food.

Backstory to “Road Trippin’”?

Road Trippin’” I wrote the first year I lived in Nashville. It’s a nod to my 90’s country roots but also just truth. I listed places I haven’t seen yet in America. Those are on my travel list, too! I got to record this song with award winning Session Musician, Producer and fellow Musicians Institute Alum, John Willis who lives here in Nashville. It was released on the Nashville Dreamin’ Country Vol. 1 compilation album.

The vibe is for those that live a different lifestyle than most and don’t plan on settling down to any 9 to 5 job. Eric and I love taking road trips. We’ve driven up and down California, to Mexico, Canada, through Nevada, Idaho, Utah and Montana. We drove across the country from Los Angeles to move to Nashville. We drove across Greece during our Honeymoon. The car gives you the freedom to roll wherever you want and be on your own schedule. I like being on the move.

How did you make the choice to film “Jump Off the Train” in Stockholm? What was your impression of the country music scene there? Any up-and-coming artists you’d recommend we listen to?

When I went to Musicians Institute in Hollywood all of my roommates were Swedish. I grew to know a lot about Sweden and eventually went over to visit after school finished December 2010. “Jump Off The Train” was written on a later trip that I took to Sweden when I went over for a friends wedding. I was riding on the train and this story just started to fall out being inspired by the sights around me. So when it came time to do the video it had to be shot in Stockholm and Gothenburg. I have wonderful memories in both cities. I wanted to take people on a journey to see a glimpse of Sweden, a place that I call my second home. I filmed it on two of my trips back with my dear friend Anna Örneblad. It was so much fun shooting it with her. I’ve been to Sweden five times. And hope to go back again very soon!

Sweden has country artists too! Just like being from California where people say “You do country music?” There’s country music in Sweden! We’re everywhere. Many Swedes are talented musicians. That’s been my experience. Some country artist friends of mine that I highly recommend are Jamie Meyer, Emma Svensson, Jake Lindholm and Simon Sjöstedt of the band Della Ridge in Stockholm.

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How fun was competing in the Losers Bar & Grill Downtown Brooks & Dunn Kings of Neon karaoke contest?

It was a lot of fun competing. I saw the contest on the last day entries were available, so I quickly filmed myself singing “Neon Moon” and entered. I was chosen to be in the Top Ten performers out of over 300 entries by Country Music Hall Of Fame and Sony Nashville so that felt like a win. I grew up listening to “Neon Moon” on the radio and even though I didn’t win that night, I had fun getting up with the house band Ten Year Town and performing.

Would you consider trying out for American Idol or The Voice?

I have tried out for all of the shows over the years. I’ve even been invited to private auditions in Los Angeles when I lived there and one in St. Louis, Missouri since moving to Nashville. It’s always a good experience to try things and the preparation for auditions. It’s hard to ever know what they’re looking for in those scenarios. The auditions are very short and no one really learns anything about who you are. No feedback is given it’s just a “thank you, we’re going to pass for today”. I’m not against those shows for anyone, but I’m an artist and I’m going to continue on that path.

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If you were to write a song about your cat Ollie how would it go?

Oh man, what WOULDN’T go into that song?! I’ve had Ollie for eleven years. He’s lived in Northern California with me in Crockett, moved to LA with me to my first apartment in Korea Town, then Hollywood, Burbank and across the country to Nashville. He can be loud, he can be annoying, but he’s very sweet. He’s been there in my adult life as I’ve grown he’s grown up. Everybody knows Ollie. I love him so much! I make up songs everyday singing around the kitchen and such so I guess his song would go: “There ain’t no other cat like Ollie, he’s the best orange tabby around, I’ll love him forever, even though he has the loudest meow, he’s got a personality that has 9 lives, everyone knows him from far and wide, he can’t be beat though others have tried, Ain’t no other cat like Ollie, that’s right!” Number one hit on the CATchy songs chart maybe? We’ll see.

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When you aren’t writing or performing, what do you like to do in your free time?

I like to take photos, make videos and write in my journal. I’ve always loved documenting everything. I love having a cuppa English black tea, hanging out with my husband Eric and my two cats Arya and Ollie, searching for good flight deals that I can’t always take, going to see live music and having a drink or two, catching up with a good friend and I love watching the show Schitt’s Creek. It’s hilarious!

You said that your 7th grade principal said, “Make it a great day or not, the choice is always yours”. How has that inspired your music?

A lot of things have inspired my music. That was a good quote that I always remembered. To remind yourself that you have it within you to find that positive light. And we all have it and we all lose it from time to time. Not every day is a good day or an easy day. But the one thing that is true about me is that I do my best to stay positive, try and have a can do attitude. You have to be a self starter and a yes person as an indie artist trying to follow a dream. You’re your own business and it’s a lot of work. It feels impossible at times to do it all. But if you try to keep that driving positivity in your heart and believe then you will be able to make things happen. Mindset is key.

Saw you were recently putting together your new website. How important is social media to an artist? Is it one of the best ways to interact with fans?

Yes! I built a new website. Excited to have one I can update more frequently. I will be creating an email list as well so that people can have more of an inside look of things via email if they choose. Social media is very important nowadays because people can find you there from all over the world and be a part of your journey. Which is really cool. I think it’s a good place to interact with fans and share the experience and you’re able to share more than only your songs. It can be a hard thing to keep up with sometimes when you’re trying to do a lot of creative things but I enjoy sharing the experience. The highs and lows. I like to keep my page real, connect with others and share the truth of what I’m feeling on the ride.

What’s ahead for 2020?

I have a lot planned for 2020! Right now I am sorting through all of my songs to make a timeline of the ones that I want to record. I will be releasing new songs next year and more videos as well. I have plans to go overseas. I will announce more when I can. 2020 is going to be big and I’m really excited for it. I feel like everything I have been working towards is bringing me back here to this creative place that is the reason I started this journey in the first place: my love for songs. I’ll have a new single out early 2020 so definitely stay tuned on social media for that and any future shows in Nashville and beyond!

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